Lenox's Portobello Road
David Case, the developer who has transformed the 64-acre nearly deserted former Lenox Shops into a thriving village of stores and restaurants, announced this week that nearly 50 local artisans and some from as far away as Manchester, N.H., and Johnsonville, N.Y., have already signed on as charter tenants, and he expected more by opening day.
"We are getting our feet wet this Saturday to prepare for a center of joy and excitement," Case said in an interview.
Case defined the open market as "an emporium to promote small and growing businesses in the Berkshires a lot of them all under one sheltering roof and open to the outside air each to have retail space of its own."
"This makes it possible for them to get together, because they don't have individual space of their own," he explained. "It is for people with great talent and a passion for what they do."
Encouraged by a flow of inquiries and applications that grows every day, Case said he anticipates that by next year as many as 125 merchants will fill the 22,000-square-foot building that has stood vacant along the back end of Aspinwell for the last four years.
Dealers will offer handcrafted wares ranging from soaps and herbs to walking sticks, photographs and oil paintings. Saturday's event is planned as a "soft opening" to introduce the public to the novelty of an open air market.
A gala opening will follow on Saturday, Sept. 6, from noon to 6 p.m., with a catered dinner, music, a stage show with home-grown talent, locally produced movies, a used-book sale, a children's corner and a display of murals created by Berkshire artists.
The Friday Farmer's Market will remain in place and may be open on Saturdays as well, Case said.
He and staff including Dale Salzman, a consultant specializing in developing community enterprises; Brandon Harms, site director, and his wife, Marcia, a handbag crafter; and Susan Jameson and Fidel Moreno, market co-producers, provided details of the open-air market.
Harms is applying his experience with open markets across the country. Jameson and Moreno have fostered several creative projects in the Berkshires, including the Blue Iguana, an artists collective on North Street in Pittsfield.
Harms said, "the greatest and most important part is that we will help build small businesses with a desire to work in whatever medium they want and build their business so it can be expanded elsewhere."
Also, he said, by attracting people within and beyond the Berkshires, the market will provide a new stimulus for the restaurants and other enterprises in Aspinwell.
At a cost of more than $500,000, Case has transformed a building once occupied by shops into a market larger than a football field. The front and back sides now allow open access to individual sales spaces. Case and Harms are renting at $70 a day for a 10-by-10-foot space or $100 for one that is 10-by-20 square feet. Case said the building has ample space to include entertainments and food services.
A new roof will have skylights and solar panels, and shop doors and windows have been replaced with barn doors, which will remain open during business hours.
They will provide water facilities, a sprinkler system and electrical outlets and restrooms. A small theater on the west end of the building and a porch on the opposite end will enhance the market as both business and tourist attractions.
A list of businesses and artists who had signed up for spaces at press time included a Newton, Mass. designer of "embellished clothing"; nature photographs developed by vendors in Troy, N.Y., and Lenox; and "Gentle Water Gems" jewelry created in Lenox.
Among the vendors ready to set up business in the market are skin care applications from West Springfield, clothing and home decor from Williamstown and silk and velvet scarves from Pawlet, Vt.
Eventually, Case said, the market will include locally produced beef and bakery goods, with "an eye always on requiring vendors to offer quality merchandise."
Christmas trees and ornaments may be an added inventory for the holidays.
"We would love to have dairy products so people can come in and get milk and eggs," he added.
Referring to a condominium community under construction adjacent to Aspinwell, he said he hoped the market would become "a place where people can live, work and play and not go out with a car."
To process the steady flow of applications for space, Case has organized a "jury" of merchandise experts to screen vendors to maintain high quality.
"It's not going to be a tag sale," he declared. "There will not be any junk. And we are not going to have too much duplication. It's going to be a place for the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker."
Present plans call for the market to be open for business every Saturday in August, from noon to 6 p.m. Case hopes the hours can be extended soon to Saturdays and Sundays, and later to Fridays and Mondays, with four or five days of business each week by next summer.
Noting that it took only three weeks to develop plans for the market, Case said that "we moved fast because we had been waiting for a good idea like this for a long time. In my career I have known when something is right in my guts. This is one of those phenomenon that happens once in a while."
For further information, call David Case at (520) 907-7704 or Brandon Harms at (413) 443-0025.
If you go ...
What: Opening of Berkshire Open Market, a covered market of small stalls.
Where: Aspinwell on Routes 7 & 20 in Lenox.
When: Saturday at noon
Who: 50 or more artists, crafters and vendors ...
From Pittsfield: Bella Bags handmade handbags, www.yelp.com/biz/bella-bags-by-marcia-pittsfield.
Berkshire Hills Art, painting and sculpture, www.berkshirehillsart.com
ALJ Designs jewelry
From Troy, N.Y.:
KatieGail Photography, www.katiegail.com.
Bedard Photography, www.bedardphoto.com.
Peace by Piece Creations clothing and home decoration, www.peacebypiececreations.com.
... and others from Dalton, Great Barrington, Albany, N.Y., and locations across Massachusetts, into New York, and as far away as Barrington, New Hampshire.
Art and crafts will include:
Fused glass, beads and copper jewelry.
Hand-dyed silk and velvet scarves.
Soaps and herbs.
Hand-painted or wood-fired ceramics.
Paintings in oils and watercolors.
Wooden furniture, stone carving.
Hot sauce and fudge sauce
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